Musical theatre kids are a very special breed of humans! For those who are not familiar with this label, it’s used to describe those young people who are absolutely obsessed with musicals/theatre. They tend to be the ones who are constantly high energy, the ones who lead dance routines at parties or burst into song randomly in public places. The energy at theatre summer camps, during shows, is unlike anything you have ever experienced and it’s when large groups of these theatre kids that magic happens! I have talked in my review of BitterSummer about the enigma that is summer camps (available at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/07/12/bittersummer-recording-review/) but add to that the idea that in theatre classes it is a group of people who have a common interest and a similar mindset. Outside of these environments however theatre kids are not constantly surrounded by people who are up-to-date with the latest shows coming to the west end, don’t want to follow a dance sequence when partying etc. As a someone who identifies with the label, the thing that annoys me most is when people say that they “just do not like musicals.” I personally think that a statement like that is generalising all shows into one category which is false. The idea of musicals are constantly adapting and we know have musicals told through rap, almost historic documentaries, theatrical experiences, outlandish and flamboyant shows etc and so I don’t understand how you can say you dislike musicals it is simply you have not found the right one yet!
The latest ‘musical project’ from the Jaxbanded theatre company is unlike anything I have heard before. It blurs the line between almost a cabaret show and seeing a live band gig. The self-confessed “gig” musical has stripped back the musical accompaniment with the majority of the songs being simply performed with one vocalist and a guitar and from my understanding, it is the performer who is playing the instrument. Rather than the classical ideas of musical theatre products but instead plays with the ideas of indie concerts/band gigs. There are no massive chorus dance sequences or spectacles and instead focused on the lyrics and emotions of the songs which is a very refreshing perspective within the musical genre. The story follows Proc and Jez who are two ex-lovers and bandmates who receive a mysterious text to meet up in the same club that they met so many years ago. On top of this awkwardness of two ex’s being forced into a room, we have the added tension that the rest of the world is currently facing a world-ending catastrophe. The story has a sense of movie-like fiction about it (think the worlds end) but shows some similarities to the current global lockdowns we are facing. People could be living with exes or family members that they do not get on with etc but are forced to stay with them for the past year and a bit.
Generally speaking the song within this recording are fairly stripped back which fits with the gig ‘genre’ of the show but maintains uniquely folk/Celtic influences throughout. The show opens with “the only way out” which is a song performed by Proc who is played by Morgan Buckley. This number sets up the story and the characters as well addressing the audience similar to the purpose of the salesman (voiced by Robin Williams) in Aladdin and so the audience know what to expect from the show which is the main purpose of an opening number. I hope that if performed live this number will simply have Proc with his guitar in a spotlight on the stage so that the staging of the pub is revealed after this number and the audience have that moment of scanning the stage and the mystery of seeing the new element. The first instance of strong language occurs in the second number in this recording (titled Climate greed) and the strong language contains throughout the whole show. This number is a beautiful duet between Morgan and Sarah Moran-Nolan with the two voices working flawlessly together. The song has an overarching theme of climate change which is always an important issue to explore but also there are a few moments of comic relief that made for a very interesting experience. I enjoyed the song “send me on my way” which was again incredibly performed by Morgan whose higher vocal sections in this song were a feast for the ears! The song “Remember being happy” was performed by Sarah who is also an incredible performer with some insane riffs towards the end of the song. This was an incredibly emotionally powerful song that had me very close to tears throughout.
Overall, this is a unique musical that could easily influence those people who don’t enjoy the traditional ideas surrounding musical theatre. It is unlike anything I have listened to before which was amazing to experience with a very limited (but talented) cast! I would rate this recording 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to those who claim to hate musicals.
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